Welcome to Berkeley. We’re sending you something that you don’t need to figure out, fill out, or even respond to. Every summer we send new UC Berkeley freshmen a list of books suggested by various people on campus. This is not an “official” list, or even a list of required reading. It’s just for you to enjoy as you wish.

This year we’ve chosen “best books about science” as the topic to coincide with the designation of “Year of Science 2009” (see www.yearofscience2009.org and scienceatcal.berkeley.edu).

You might be expecting a list of the classics, including such titles as Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. And indeed you will find some classics here. But one of the amazing things about Berkeley is that when you ask someone to name a “best book” in a category, you’re going to get all kinds of interesting and un­­expected answers. So along with some classics are new books, about earthquakes, women’s brains, and cyber‑detectives.

There is undoubtedly a title — or several — on this list that you’ll enjoy reading and that will truly inspire you. You may find them in bookstores, and all are available in the Berkeley campus libraries. The list itself is also available, along with past lists, at reading.berkeley.edu.

We hope you’ll choose one of these books to read this summer, as a reminder that UC Berkeley is a vital in­tellectual community that generates and debates important ideas.


Jennifer Dorner
Head, Instructional Services
Doe/Moffitt Libraries

Michael Larkin
Lecturer, College Writing Programs

Steve Tollefson
Lecturer, College Writing Programs
Director, Office of Educational Development

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
Stephen Jay Gould
New York: W.W. Norton, 1989

A book full of wonderful stories about the dis­covery, interpretation, and reinterpretation of fossils in the Canadian Rockies from an ancient sea; about what paleontologists do and how and where they work; about how we write and read the past from present points of view. At every moment it reveals the range and roaming of Gould’s remarkable mind and his talent for enlisting readers‚ his enthusiasm for and understanding of things they may never have thought they would care about.

Stephanie Bobo
Lecturer
College Writing Programs

Stephanie Bobo is a Lecturer in College Writing Programs. She has taught reading and composition courses for many years and recently launched an advanced writing course focused on uses of social media. Her reading interests currently range from visual culture to Scandinavian thrillers and just about anything about primate behavior.


Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
Michael Shermer
New York: H. Holt, 2002

This well-written and entertaining book is sure to stir up discussion and debate. Shermer gives an excellent description of what science actually is, a topic that is sorely lacking in most science classes and textbooks. He also delves into how and why science comes up short at times. The bulk of the book is about human tendencies to explain phenomena they don’t understand with belief in things such as extraterrestrials, ghosts, super­stitions, and prejudices. Shermer is respectful of those who subscribe to these beliefs, but presents the reader with alternatives grounded in scientific thinking.

Kevin Beals
Curriculum Specialist
Professional Developer and Teacher
Lawrence Hall of Science

Kevin Beals designs curriculum at Lawrence Hall of Science for elementary and middle school students. He trains teachers, teaches children, and designed and teaches the UC course Communicating ­Science, which is primarily for science majors who are interested in how to teach science.


The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage
Cliff Stoll
New York: Doubleday, 1989

This true story is a blend of science, documentary, spy thriller, personal narrative, and introduction to Berkeley. Even though you know the outcome before you begin the book, it remains a page-turner. A Berkeley astronomy graduate student becomes fascinated with a tiny discrepancy in a computer account and educates himself about how to catch computer trespassers. His search leads him all over Berkeley and eventually around the world. I lent a copy to a British astronomer and he did not put it down for his entire flight from SFO to London. The author, who also wrote Silicon Snake Oil, is a Berkeley resident.

Della Peretti
Academic Coordinator
Developmental Teacher Education
Graduate School of Education

Della Peretti is the coordinator of the elementary teaching credential program in the Graduate School of Education. She teaches the supervised teaching seminar and a course on writing songs and ­playing guitar to enhance K-8 student content learning. She taught for 19 years in Oakland Public Schools before coming to Berkeley. Reading interests include personal narratives — especially multi-generational ones — and off-beat fiction.


The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas
New York: Viking, 1974

Mitochondria as separate organisms within us. Symbiosis — the interconnectedness of life and planet, humans and other life forms. In beautiful prose, Lewis Thomas (1913–1993), a doctor, poet, and “biology watcher,” writes about all these topics and more in 29 essays collected from his writings for the New England Journal of Medicine. Perfect for non-scientists, but even science majors may want to be dazzled and reaffirmed in their choice of discipline.

Aija Kanbergs
Doe/Moffitt Instructional Services
UC Berkeley Libraries

Aija Kanbergs works in Library Instructional Services and loves helping students find resources for their research. She reads anything she can find, from Kinky Friedman mysteries to the latest works on evolution, and is always happy to discover something new.


Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors
Nicholas Wade
New York: Penguin, 2006

Until very recently, all information about our ancient human ancestors came from archeology. Nicholas Wade, a New York Times science writer, uses newly available biological evidence to retell the story of how humans came to dominate the globe. DNA analysis shows that the first place people settled outside Africa was, incredibly, Australia; later, a small band of 150 crossed the Red Sea into the Arabian Peninsula and became the ancestors of all Asians, Native Americans, and Europeans. Wade’s analysis covers the develop­ment of language and the domestication of dogs and cats. He writes clearly and easily about complicated topics, and the story he tells is, to me, fascinating and utterly new.

Hilary Schiraldi
Reference, Instruction, and Data Librarian
Long Business & Economics Library
Haas School of Business

Hilary Schiraldi provides business reference assistance at the Long Business & Economics Library. She also teaches the Haas community how to use the library’s business and finance data products.


Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Richard Feynman
New York: W.W. Norton, 1985

It takes little time with this book to realize that this Nobel-winner was truly a genius, but just as quickly you will recognize an incredible sense of humor and someone who enjoys life and refuses to conform. It seems he spent half his life doing practical jokes, and there was usually a lesson in the joke for his victims. This has everything a freshman needs in a summer read — from a series of entertaining life experiences, to advice on how best to succeed with the opposite sex, to the story of how the atom bomb got built. A great read!

Steven Dunphy
Marketing and Operations Director
Great Explorations in Math and Science Program
Lawrence Hall of Science

Steven Dunphy is involved in the development and marketing of curriculum for Pre K–8 science edu­cation at Lawrence Hall of Science.


The Double Helix
James Watson
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996

James Watson, who shared the Nobel Prize with two others for the deciphering of the structure of DNA, presents a tell-all story of how this discovery came about. It presents a side of science that is fascinating but rarely discussed and provides an insight — perhaps both directly and indirectly — about personal drive and ambition that is thought- provoking, captivating, and troublesome.

Vince Resh
Professor
Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Vince Resh has taught biology at Berkeley for the past 34 years to more than 18,000 students. His research, much of it in developing countries in Africa and Asia, is on water pollution and water-borne vectors of disease.


Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868-1930
Gregory Clancey
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006

How does our scientific understanding of the world itself enlarge? How do new scientific disciplines emerge? In Earthquake Nation, Gregory Clancey, whose specialty is the history of tech­nologies, demonstrates the way society shapes even its most technical fields through political choices and cultural expectations, describing how an international group of scientists established the scientific study of seismicity in the late 19th century and early 20th. His tale is set at the birth of modern Japan, in a moment when the nation drew innovative architects and engineers to its shores to rapidly expand its infrastructure.

Clancey also elegantly weaves into the very readable text critical arguments about how cultures define architecture — and the life-and-death implications of such choices. The oldest and largest wooden structures in the world are in Japan, but as Clancey explains, for architects from Europe such structures were not worthy of study, as they had not been built of brick and stone. But brick was not a wise choice in the new nation, as a devastating earthquake ultimately demonstrated. In this UC Press book, Clancey offers a nuanced reading that deftly brings together science and the humanities and helps us understand how the study of seis­micity shapes the world we live in today.

Dana Buntrock
Associate Professor
Department of Architecture

Dana Buntrock is interested in the point where construction and architecture practices intersect. Her research tends to focus on Japan, while her teaching embraces a wider swath of the world. In the fall, she will teach an introduction to construction class for graduate students and a graduate seminar on fabrication practices in the Bay Area (which involves lots of cool field trips to fabricators!).


The Female Brain
Louann Brizendine
New York: Morgan Road Books, 2006

Written by a UCSF neuropsychiatrist, this book is a fascinating and well-written description of the effect of hormones on the development of women from the time they are babies to post-menopause. If you’re a woman, plan to have a relationship with a woman, or plan to have a daughter someday, this book is both eye-opening and validating. (The author admits to favoring science over political correctness.) Eminently readable, but carefully referenced like a research report, it explains so much about the difference between men and women!

Cynthia Dai
Industry Fellow and Lecturer
Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology
College of Engineering

Cynthia Dai teaches in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) at the College of Engineering, when she is not running her strategy and interim executive management consulting firm. She taught the Organizational Leadership and Teamwork course for the past three years and is designing an Advanced Leadership Course for Spring ‘10.


Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
Maryanne Wolf, with illustrations by
Catherine Stoodley
New York: Harper, 2007

As the Romance Languages Librarian, I was immediately drawn to the title of this one, only to learn that it had little to do with Marcel Proust. There’s no mention of madeleines or calamari here, but this unique biological and cognitive study of how we learn to read (or don’t) was certainly one of the most riveting scientific books I’ve spent time with lately. It is an extremely well-written discourse on one of the most remarkable inventions in human history. In true interdisciplinary fashion, Maryanne Wolf interweaves psychology and archaeology, linguistics and education, history and neuroscience in one captivating text that, of course, you don’t have to read from beginning to end.

Claude Potts
Romance Languages Librarian
Doe/Moffitt Libraries

Claude Potts is responsible for Doe/Moffitt Libraries’ collections and services related to social science and humanities materials published in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Francophone Canada.



The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Michael Pollan
New York: Penguin, 2006

This captivating book follows several key human food chains from beginning to end: from the raising of plants and animals to the preparation of a meal in industrial-agricultural, organic-agricultural, and contemporary (and local to Berkeley) hunter-gatherer settings. The reader learns about the overwhelming presence of corn products in the foods we eat; about the factory farming of meat; about the complexities and richness of organic farming of plants and animals, and more. Michael Pollan is persuasive without being preachy; he takes delight in the world and all its problems and contradictions rather than turning away from them. The Faculty Advisory Board and the L&S Deans chose this book for “On the Same Page” for fall 2009 because they found it life-changing, and they trust that you will, too.

Tyler Stovall
Dean, Undergraduate Division
College of Letters and Science

For more about “On the Same Page,” onthesamepage.berkeley.edu


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